On Sunday I rode with my daughter, Malu, and her boyfriend, Will, along the path that runs beside the Bay here. We passed a marina and a horserace track, and then ventured out to a peninsula that seemed to be composed entirely of concrete rubble. Trees and bushes and a fair amount of earth on top, so I questioned my idea that the rubble was all bits of the collapsed Cypress Freeway from the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989—though that’s exactly what it looked like. Could the trees and dirt grow and accumulate so quickly on top?
Near the end of the peninsula we saw a man on a bicycle dragging an empty shopping cart with a skinny rope. I mused that he might be going into town for supplies, but Will said how would he get a full cart back with a bike. Hmmm. We saw the cart abandoned a little later, as we pedaled around this area. Here and there we saw tents in the bushes, and others tucked in the shade of trees. There were no other folks about, but it was obvious this was a hobo village of sorts. One path to a tent read “private property.”
This has to be the most bucolic hobo village ever (The unseasonably warm weather helped give this impression.). If one didn’t know better one might mistake it for a recreational campsite. New York City used to have more homeless people on the streets than I saw in India—Calcutta on the Hudson—with at least one person per block, which makes 4, if you count all sides of the block. With the economic crash (crash for some, windfall for others—still unregulated!) you’d expect to see more homeless folks on the streets, but they’re not there. The relentless grooming of Manhattan in particular, begun under Giuliani, has cemented into policy. All seaminess gets taken away to present a pretty face.
We rode on, past an industrial building that seemed to have a kind of half finished crossword on it.
We rode around Alameda, an island slightly south of Oakland that used to house a massive Naval Air base. About a third of the island is still mostly abandoned air base buildings, acres and acres of them. The rest seems to be developer-built retirement homes and homes of former navy employees. We passed a few massive hanger-type buildings.
There was a bike path and promenade that went for miles along the beachfront. It was very nice, though the occasional inspired bit of topiary work was the only thing that saved the unremarkable houses on the other side of the street: